GIS surveys in New Guinea
Kew botanists have helped to survey the vegetation of Biak Island, off the north coast of New Guinea.
13 Dec 2011
Natural forest on uplifted limestone cliffs on the south coast of Biak Island, New Guinea (Image: Tim Utteridge)
About the area
New Guinea has one of the largest remaining blocks of tropical forest, and the island has been identified as one of the world’s major tropical wilderness areas. The region is in need of greater study and a combined group from Kew’s South-East Asia team (Tim Utteridge) and the GIS unit (Justin Moat and Steve Bachman) have visited Indonesia to deliver a series of training workshops and to survey the vegetation of Biak Island off the north coast of New Guinea.
Mangrove vegetation on the north coast of Biak Island (Image: Tim Utteridge)
Supported by the Bentham-Moxon Trust, the Kew team worked with Sukristijono Sukardjo and other staff from the Herbarium Bogoriense (Java) to train botanists in IUCN Red Listing techniques, before moving to New Guinea to work at the Universitas Negeri Papua (UNIPA, West Papua). There they taught basic vegetation mapping skills to students and staff, including practical field training in the Gunung Meja reserve in Manokwari.
After delivering the teaching workshops, the Kew team and Charlie Heatubun, Reinardus Cabuy and Devi Manuhua (UNIPA) travelled to the island of Biak in Geelvink Bay to conduct a vegetation survey. Biak is an uplifted coralline island originally covered with lowland rainforest, but large areas have now been cleared of natural vegetation. The Geelvink Bay area is known for its wealth of endemic species and is a conservation focus for UNIPA scientists and foresters.
The team surveyed most of the vegetation types across Biak and will produce a preliminary map of the island. Further collaborative work in New Guinea will build on the results of this trip, and include mapping new areas and working towards a Red List for the island.
The work contributes to Strategy 2 of Kew’s Breathing Planet Programme (‘Search & Rescue’) which aims to identify species at the greatest risk and those regions likely to lose their wild species soonest.
Item from Dr Tim Utteridge (Senior Botanist – Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives; RBG Kew)
Originally published in Kew Scientist issue 39
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